The EU’s liberal political party has been forced to end corporate donations after complaints from Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche over funding received from agrichemical giant Bayer.
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) brings together liberal parties from across Europe and is the fourth biggest political family in the European Parliament. Alde have been courting Mr Macron’s centrist party as future allies after pan-EU elections in May.
On Wednesday Hans van Baalen, Alde chairman, said the party would no longer allow private sector companies to sponsor stands at its political events or give corporate donations after controversy over money received from Bayer in 2017.
Marine Le Pen, France’s far-right leader, accused Alde of taking money from Bayer last week. The German chemicals group has come under fire in France after a series of international legal battles over environmental and safety concerns over its weedkiller products.
Alde’s financial records show Monsanto, the US arm which was bought up by Bayer last year, donated €12,000 to the party in 2017, along with €12,000 from Google, €10,000 from Deloitte, €9,999 from broadcaster Sky, and €4,000 from Uber.
The party said the donations did not break EU funding rules and “has always been very minimal and was done in a transparent way”. It has been terminated “following debates in France and other countries”, said a statement.
“The participation of the private sector was used to finance part of our congresses in order to give more people the possibility to participate”, added Mr van Baalen. “Companies were offered opportunities to organise exhibition stands. Unfortunately this has been interpreted as active political influence. To end all confusion, the Alde party has decided to end all corporate sponsorship”.
Mr Macron’s En Marche party will have seats in the European Parliament for the first time this year. The French centrists have said they will probably join forces with Alde, whose members including the ruling party of Mark Rutte in the Netherlands and Germany’s Free Democrats, after May. But Alde and En Marche will run separate election campaigns and will not back a single candidate to become the next president of the European Commission.
Stephane Séjourné, En Marche’s European campaign manager, said the party would push to ban all corporate funding of political groups in the EU. “We will modify the European rules so this funding is no longer possible”, Mr Séjourné told France 2 television.
Get alerts on Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe when a new story is published